The calm and inviting atmosphere is purposeful in hopes of making students feel comfortable while they’re here. After all, writing can be unnerving and even intimidating for many people.
“We’re not here to correct papers,” says Writer Center Director Dr. Alan Newton. “We are here to help students develop self-awareness as a writer and become better writers.”
To help students become better writers, high schools are increasingly establishing writing centers similar to those in universities. The Episcopal Writing Center is managed by a group of students, like junior Olivia Grice, who undergo a competitive application process to earn the Writing Center Fellow distinction. First year fellows must take an Honors Composition class and everyone receives yearly training on how to positively coach others.
She wants her classmates to know that writing fellows are available to help without judgement. “Don’t be scared. We signed up to do this. We are here to help,” she says.
Research on the effectiveness of peer tutoring, which is essentially what the Writing Center is, backs up Grice’s sentiment. In an October 1996 Higher Education article entitled “The Effectiveness of Peer Tutoring in Further and Higher Education: A Typology and Review of the Literature”, author K. J. Topping points to several studies that show that peer tutoring benefits both the tutee and the tutor. Topping found evidence that tutors and tutees actually obtain significant benefits such as an improvement in their skills as well as in their overall attitude and self-confidence.
Honors Thesis Director Katie Sutcliffe, who teaches several Writing Center Fellows, has enjoyed watching her students grow through a shared passion for writing. “What’s really fun is to see how the Writing Center mission and efforts extend beyond the actual Writing Center space. Students seem really eager to help each other on writing tasks at any time and in any place; I notice it in class, and I even notice with students making comments on each other’s work out of class when it isn’t required. The Writing Center has formed an identity within our school and the fellows really own their role.”
Social Studies Department Chair Dr. Rebecca Kuhn agrees. “I've seen students who have no idea what to write about or maybe even how to start writing come out of a Writing Center appointment encouraged with direction and motivation to write. Peer help in the editing and revision process through asking questions makes students think more deeply about their topic and the writing process. Students who have visited the Writing Center with good papers end up with great papers.”
Writing Center Fellows strive to meet classmates wherever they are in their individual writing journeys. They assist with a range of assignments from literary analysis to satire writing (a favorite of Grice’s). Grice says she has already been impressed with the student projects she has reviewed. She remembers a murder mystery written by a seventh grader for a creative writing assignment. The piece was interesting and compelling, especially considering that the young student created the entire story on his own. She also appreciates the opportunity to encourage fellow students who need guidance to stay on task and follow the assignment requirements.
Are all Writing Center fellows future writers? Not necessarily. In the case of the well-rounded Grice, she actually hopes to be an attorney. She says her favorite subjects are English and history and once she even wanted to be a marine biologist. Dr. Newton says students like Grice make the writing center strong. There are currently 33 writing fellows – all committed and engaged in school life. Fellows maintain regular office hours. Students in need of help can schedule an appointment or simply walk in for assistance. Already this year, students have conducted 144 tutoring sessions and are anticipating many more this spring.
The Writing Center is a tremendous resource for students in a college preparatory environment, such as Episcopal. As Grice explains there is a comfort created from students helping each other. Dr. Newton says because of the positive experience provided, many students who are tutored at the Writing Center later become fellows themselves. In the end, everyone wins - young writers receive the support they need and tutors bolster their writing confidence by helping others.
Writing Center Fellows offer writing workshops throughout the year – some of them even include waffles! The next one is scheduled for February 20th from 9:50 am to 10:25 am, and the topic is “Writing Document-Based Essays for History Classes.”
Need help getting that concept just right? Stop in and visit with a fellow for a cup of coffee and an understanding ear.
Writing Center Hours: 8:50 am to 2:25 pm, Monday - Friday
Click here to schedule an appointment with a Writing Center Fellow.
We’ve all seen the stats – 100% of Episcopal grads go on to pursue a post-secondary education. Our students attend universities across the country. They’re accepted to a variety of schools with a range of specialties. They’re going new places, trying new things and hopefully truly experiencing college life.
But how do they get from learning the alphabet in PreK-3 or attending a Mo-Ranch adventure in eighth grade to being accepted to the college of their choice? That’s where we come in.
Episcopal School of Baton Rouge has a dedicated college counseling department with three full-time counselors, including myself, Shandi Fazely and Jody Kennard. Think of us as guides through the college application and admissions process. While it varies per student as to how early on they begin the college admission process, by the spring of their junior year it is definitely time for them to begin working with one of us. Here’s a look at what to expect:
1.College counseling is a partnership.
As college counselors, we work in partnership with the student and their family, with the student at the center of the process. We guide students along the way, making sure they are prepared for the application process and stay on track for deadlines and inquiries. Ultimately, the students are preparing for adulthood so the college counselor allows the student to manage his or her own application. However, we are a strong partner in the process, sitting with students as they make phone calls or reassuring them as they hit the submit button on their final applications and essays.
One of my most memorable experiences occurred with a student who had been struggling for some time to discover what university would “fit” her. Nothing seemed right. She was not having the “aha” moment that we love to see students have. On a whim one day right before fall break I suggested she research High Point University in North Carolina. Upon our return from break this senior, proudly wore a High Point sweatshirt. She had researched High Point. She had even booked a flight and visited the school during the time off. What she discovered was the school that fit her best. It was rewarding to help this student. It is also a great example of suggesting the right thing at the right time, when the student is open to such a suggestion.
3. College counselors have a vast amount of knowledge about higher education and we want to share that knowledge with you!
The three of us attend national conferences, we visit universities and follow the trends. While the college essay requirements might seem daunting - and they can be - we can provide guidance on how to manage the process. Aside from admissions paperwork, many students and families often struggle with financial assistance forms or scholarship requirements - we know a lot about this as well. Our team provides help with financial aid forms based on the family’s level of comfort in sharing such information. In addition, we share information about potential scholarships, their requirements and the associated deadlines.
Our goal is to help students find the right option for their needs, whether that’s an elite institution or a more intimate setting closer to home. There is no one size fits all in college admissions, which actually makes the process more rewarding as we work with students on this journey of discovery and exploration. In the end we want students to accept an invitation to a school that best matches their own needs and long-term goals.
Justin Fenske joined Episcopal as the Director of College Counseling in 2014 and has been in the field since 2008. Justin graduated from the University of Michigan and earned a master’s in education from Boston University. During his time at Episcopal, his team has implemented a comprehensive high school program priding itself on individual attention to students in all grade levels. Justin is a certified Highlands Ability Battery consultant and has also spent time developing and implementing online career and college tools for high school students in the state of Michigan and as an administrator at Boston University.
Twenty-six members of the Episcopal's Mu Alpha Theta team competed at the 19th Annual Catholic High School Mathematics Tournament with around 500 students from 30 schools. Episcopal took 1st place overall in Division 2! Congratulations!
At the crossroads of speech and debate, and acting you find mock trial. Here students not only yell “objection” and submit evidence, but they also act as witnesses ranging from medical experts to members of law enforcement. There are costumes and personas and the experience is rather intense - similar to an actual court case.
Aside from the courtroom dynamics, Mock Trial Coach Vincent Hoang says the Upper School students involved are gaining the critical thinking skills to lead purposeful lives, such as:
In addition, Hoang says team members become comfortable and familiar with the nuances of the law. Local attorneys J. Cullens, Chip Marionneaux and Joseph Scott voluntarily serve as legal experts for the group and guide them through the details. The professionals provide tips on everything from the best way to cross-exam a witness, to how to present a closing statement. In addition to the attorneys and Coach Hoang, the entire social studies department including Dr. Rebecca Kuhn, Billy Pritchard, Edwin Way and Clara Howell also help students with practices and preparation.
To further help Episcopal’s three six member teams gear up for spring competition, Hoang recently traveled with the students to Boston for a mock trial conference. This was not just any conference. The event was hosted by Harvard’s mock trial teams, which are currently ranked fourth in the nation with several team members considered All-American Mock Trial honorees. Hoang says the boot camp-style event renewed the Episcopal team’s excitement for mock trial. Students also gained valuable insight for success and tips on preparing for competition.
To truly take advantage of all the northeast has to offer, Hoang worked with the college counseling team to organize several college visits during the trip. Students had the opportunity to tour Tufts, Boston College, Harvard and Emerson.
Now that they’ve returned, the students are gearing up for competition next month. In mock trial each team is assigned the same case. This year’s competition is a murder trial featuring a social media site, text messages and all the trappings of a modern mystery. The teams must be prepared to present arguments for either side and will not know which side they are on until competition day. Students are expected to construct a theme for their cases and they must take on the role of those involved and be able to anticipate answers to unknown questions while remaining in character.
Competition day takes place in the mock trial version of a stadium – Baton Rouge City Court. Area attorneys and judges observe the proceedings, scoring students on their knowledge of the law, their presentation effectiveness and their ability to stay true to their theme. Ultimately, the team that does this best will be named the winner.
While mock trial students may not aspire to be professional attorneys, the experience is unique and exciting for teenagers. Hoang says the team forms a bond as a result of the time spent together prepping and rehearsing. This bond and the excitement of courtroom competition are certainly something the students will remember years beyond graduation.
Good luck Mock Trial team!
Episcopal Student Heads to Washington
Episcopal senior Scott Wicker was accepted to the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium at the LSU Cook Hotel. He presented his research on "Driving Catalytic Reactions with Non-Traditional Heating", competing for the opportunity to attend the national symposium later this year. Good luck Scott!
Congratulations to Episcopal Swim Coach and Math Department Chair Stephen Anderson who was named the All-Metro Boys Coach of the Year! The boys swim team put up an impressive second place finish this year. Several swimmers were also named to the All-Metro Team, including Sara Be, Lilli Pellegrin, Ben Levine and Ben Naquin.
Congratulations to volleyball athletes Gracie Veillon on being named to the All Metro team and Emily Mendoza for earning Honorable Mention.
No matter the greeting, December is a time of traditions. These observances range from religious traditions to family customs or occasions with friends. Here in Louisiana the festivities often include everything from a candlelight vigil and a visit from Santa to grandma’s gumbo and lighting bonfires.
Elsewhere, traditions vary widely. Some display lanterns. Some gather at the beach for a picnic. Others celebrate on December 6th, December 13th or even January 6th. Episcopal Upper School Spanish teacher Victoria Alvarez says growing up in Barcelona, Spain the celebrations typically began on December 20th and lasted until January 10th.
Alvarez says while locally the man in red and white creates excitement among good girls and boys, it’s the three wise men who traditionally fulfill this role in Spain. She says her favorite holiday event was the annual January 5th parade ushering in the wise men for the season. The parade is meant to evoke hope, promise and excitement for the future among children in attendance. She says the affair is much like a Mardi Gras parade here in Louisiana, with very large floats dedicated to each of the kings and riders throwing candy to the crowds. Years ago, the family-friendly occasion even featured elephants, tigers and ducks marching alongside the floats. Once the parades are finished Spanish children put shoes out in hopes that the wise men will fill them with treats on January 6th, Epiphany, which marks the date in history when the wise men were said to have visited baby Jesus.
Alvarez says Christmas in Spain also features big nativity scenes in homes, churches and town squares. She says like in Louisiana the occasion is celebrated with family and friends. However, in Spain there are many gatherings over the course of several days. Family members take turns hosting each celebration and the food varies from house to house. Caroling is also done in Spain, but Alvarez says it’s on a more family-oriented scale with relatives singing songs together at home. One of the most popular songs sung is “Campana sobre campana” or “Bells over Bells”.
Whether in Louisiana or places further afar, traditions make every occasion even better. Learning about the traditions of others makes us more understanding and respectful of our differences and similarities. No matter whether you celebrate with Santa, the wise men or even grapes, enjoy the time together.
Merry Christmas/Feliz Navidad!
This speech about diversity resonates with my experience in attending different kinds of elementary and secondary schools. I have been a white student in a mostly African American school district in Jackson, Mississippi, and I have also attended mostly white Episcopal schools in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Having studied the long struggles of desegregation, my experiences in these various schools cause me to question why there is such a divide in our education system for equal educational opportunity, regardless of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic standing, sex, gender, and academic ability.
Beyond cognitive benefits, there are also civic and socio-emotional benefits to racially and socioeconomically diverse schools, according to research by The Century Foundation. When peers are exposed to different backgrounds, students are more likely to engage in cross-cultural dialogue leading to deeper understanding about other races and cultures. Outside the classroom, diverse educational environments prepare students to function in the real world to become global citizens. Eileen Kugler writes, “Our nation's workforce is becoming more diverse and will continue to do so. Our students must learn how to interact with people different from them--whether as leader, staff, seller, or buyer.” Diversity is important in preparing students for future successes as well as allowing students to better understand the people, places, and events both near and far away from them.
I think building relationships and listening to each other’s stories has to be at the center of moving forward towards achieving diversity in schools, cities, and our nation. At Episcopal, I have experienced cross cultural diversity through the Spanish Exchange program, hosting two students from Madrid and traveling to Spain last February. Exploring, discovering, and engaging people who are different from me has made me a better student and a more empathetic person.
Mary Emerson Owen
Mary Emerson Owen is an Honors Diploma candidate at the Episcopal School of Baton Rouge. She is a high school senior who enjoys running on her school’s cross country team, visual art, and spending time with friends and family. Her thesis revolves around the importance of diversity in education, also referencing how diversity has grown and changed in her personal life, the Episcopal School of Baton Rouge, and the city of Baton Rouge through a historical perspective.
A NuVu assignment seems to be as much about the journey as it is about the end product. This was clear as students discussed how they got from their initial idea to their final iteration. The process required research, discussions with experts, planning, multiple iterations and many revisions. The experience, which helped students boost their problem solving skills and resilience, and sharpened their strategic thinking abilities, was considerably more than just creating a solution for a challenge. For example, one student was able to discuss the median nerve of the hand as a result of research into how to fish properly to prevent injury. Another team met with a New Balance representative and studied foot motion and pressure points to help in the design of a minimalist running shoe. When planning an alarm that would alert sports enthusiasts that they are becoming overheated, a team had to learn more about the threshold for actually being overheated.
The students’ concepts were thoughtful and impactful. When thinking about helpful tools for children with cerebral palsy one team brainstormed about what they like to do that may be difficult for others. After mulling it over the duo came up with the Geaux Threaux, a device that attaches to a wheelchair to allow a child to throw a ball with the push of a button. A simple and effective way to share the joy and excitement of playing catch.
NuVuX was created by MIT graduates Saeed Arida, Saba Ghole and David Wang. The program is based on the architectural studio and geared around multidisciplinary, collaborative projects. There is a full time school in Cambridge, Massachusetts for middle and high school students, in addition to the NuVuX program, which is offered locally at Episcopal. Studio students are presented with open-ended questions or challenges and asked to identify innovative tools or processes to solve them or improve upon them while working in collaborative groups. Each studio features equipment including a laser cutter, 3D printers, a vinyl cutter, a workshop and even a sewing machine and fully stocked electronics cabinet to help students make their designs a reality.
To learn more about the Episcopal projects click here.
A math tournament has a game day feel. There is suspense, excitement and enthusiasm as students take individual and team tests in algebra one and two, geometry, precalculus and calculus. Students huddle together in team challenges to work toward the answers with a sense of focus and concentration. Individuals pour over test questions with determination. At the end of the day, trophies are awarded to the top students in each category and everyone celebrates a common love of math.
“This is a chance to come into their own,” said Sofranko. “Students are able to recognize their own potential.” The Episcopal Mathletes truly lived up to their potential with the recent tournament. The group organized the entire event doing everything from writing the tests to choosing the trophies. Sofranko says the only thing they didn’t do was calculate the competition results. For the second year in a row the event was such a success that the Mathletes were able to donate $500 from the proceeds to the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank.
While the Upper School students were busy making sure such a huge tournament functioned smoothly, the Middle School students were representing Episcopal competitively, with tremendous results.
The results are in!
- 1st place in the Lower Interschool Team Competition
- Honorable Mention in the Middle School Team Competition
- Autumn Reynolds: 2nd place in Pre-algebra
- Ayush Patel: Honorable Mention in Pre-algebra
- Joey Roth: Honorable Mention in Pre-algebra
- Jack Williams: Honorable Mention in Geometry (included high school students)
- Arya Patel: Honorable Mention in Algebra 2 (included high school students)
Up next, the Mathletes will compete in several more school tournaments in the run up to the state convention in March. Sofranko says 1,000 competitors will be on hand to vie for top math honors over the course of a three day/two night event. She says state convention will be complete with fanfare, including a dance and game night. Episcopal has strong ties to this year’s convention as senior Wendy Wang is the current student president of Louisiana Mu Alpha Theta. In this role, she is leading a group of 11 students from across the state in planning the event.
It’s a great feeling when you can find your community and celebrate your talents at the same time. For the Mathletes, this happens because of their command of calculations. They truly are a community uKnighted.
Morgan Bernard, Troubadour Editor
College Bound 2017
From The Library
Head Of School Messages
Project Based Education
Spirituality And Service
The Teachers' Lounge
Visual And Performing Art